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18 Tips for Comic Book Artists by Jean “Moebius” Giraud: #4

It was Gir's careful observations of life in Mexico that make this Lieutenant Blueberry scene live and breathe.

The above picture (you can click on it to make it larger) provides a nice visual transition from our discussion of perspective to Moebius‘ advice regarding the drawing of people, as it encompasses both.

4) Another thing to embrace with affection is the study of human body — it’s anatomy, positions, body types, expressions, construction, and the differences between people.

I often tell my students or budding artists that the quickest way to get good is through lots of life drawing. If you can draw the human form you can draw just about anything else, as most of the objects we encounter in life are designed to fit the human form, whether they be tools, bicycles, cars or architecture.

Life studies by Jean Giraud.

An airport is a great place to sketch and observe people. You’ve usually got time to kill and you’re able to observe many types of people who are often involved in emotionally charged situations (like waiting for a loved one they haven’t seen in years or departing from someone very near and dear to them).

One of the reasons I love watching 1930s movies is their casting. Those films always have an incredible range of faces and body types — not just pretty, young twenty-somethings.

Note the diversity of characters in this Moebius study of human (and alien) nature..
Two of my friends working together: Moebius inked and colored this Geoff Darrow drawing.

Drawing a man is very different from drawing a woman. With males, you can be looser and less precise in their depiction; small imperfections can often add character. Your drawing of a woman, however, must be perfect; a single ill-placed line can dramatically age her or make her seem annoying or ugly. Then, no one buys your comic!

Boy, ain’t that the truth! I put myself through art school painting watercolor portraits at Disneyland. I averaged 80 per day. I began to dread having a pretty girl sit in my chair for a portrait. I learned very quickly that I’d have to slow, slow down, otherwise I ran the risk of her not looking good in the portrait, as every line counted. One little slip could mean the difference between plain and beautiful. A single misplaced line could age her ten or twenty years. With guys, though, I could play fast and loose. It seemed like the rougher and more casual I was, the better and more masculine they looked.

Note the smooth simplicity in the rendering of the woman vs. the roughness in Gir's handling of the male characters.

I learned in art school that the path to success in the commercial world was the ability to draw and paint beautiful women.

Occasionally, Jean would use photo reference --- but he was never a slave to the photo. He would always ended up making it his own.

For the reader to believe your story, your characters must feel as if they have a life and personality of their own.

Although it's science fiction subject matter, through his observation of life's details Moebius has created a world that feels very real.

When I design films I invent a mini-history for each character. This goes a long way to informing the design of their costumes, their environment, what they own, what’s important to them…

This process helps make the characters real to me. My philosophy is that if they’re not real to me, I can’t expect them to be real to my audience.

Their physical gestures should seem to emanate from their character’s strengths, weaknesses and infirmities. The body becomes transformed when it is brought to life; there is a message in its structure, in the distribution of its fat, in each muscle and in every wrinkle, crease or fold of the face and body. It becomes a study of life.

Moebius character design for Willow.
A completely different character for Willow.

One of the great things about Mort Drucker’s caricatures is that he not only nails the likenesses, he pays close attention to the body type, posture and overall physical attitude of whomever he is caricaturing. He’s not just exchanging heads.

Note how skillfully Mort Drucker captured John Wayne's very particular posture and body language.
Moebius and Friends

Next: Story

1 thought on “18 Tips for Comic Book Artists by Jean “Moebius” Giraud: #4

  1. Great stuff again! Mort Drucker simply mystifies me by how he can abstract ANY personality and be so on target. His style is just wonderful. He does caricature but not in the severe sense. And his figures and details are wonderful.

    I whole-heartedly agree about women’s faces. I tell my students…minimal lines…and be very careful of using any straights. One of the hardest things I worked on was a music video which was done in something of a “Marvel” style. The female was very difficult to draw in longer shots, because her head was sometimes only a inch high. If I was off a millimeter in placement of any feature, it would be a disaster. Likewise, being proportionally off the tiniest bit with the eyes or lips made her into a cartoon.

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